Are Cars and Computers Alike in More Ways Than You May Think?

What Cars and Computers Have In Common

Cars and computers are becoming more like each other every day.  Vehicles sold today are including larger screens to view more computerized information and are maintained through extensive built in computer systems and even a black box.  Toyota found itself in trouble for unintended acceleration and facing charges that its electronic method of transmitting acceleration input, which replaced the good old cable attached to the carburetor, seemed to malfunction.  But beyond the amount of computerization of autos, cars are imitating computers by including several components in a single product that were sold by cartels charged with fixing prices.  Most computers contain dynamic random access memory (DRAM), static random access memory (SRAM), an optical disk drive (ODD) to read CDs and DVDs, a form of screen that could have been a cathode ray tube (CRT) or a thin film transistor-liquid crystal display (TFT-LCD) and many contain lithium ion batteries, all of which, along with other parts, have given rise to claims for price fixing in violation of state and federal antitrust laws, both civil and criminal.

Cars and Computers Share The Same Path

Now, automotive vehicles are following in the footsteps of computers and are the subject of multiple claims for violation of state and federal antitrust laws.  In September 2013, nine auto parts suppliers agreed to plead guilty to conspiracy charges and pay more than $740 million in fines for their roles in rigging the prices of 30 products for vehicles.  Included in the parts that were price fixed were wiring harnesses, bearings, airbags, seat belts, ignition coils, wiper switches and other items.

Now, to top it off, there are allegations that the shipping companies that delivered vehicles to the U.S. entered into illegal agreements to fix prices on shipping the vehicles containing the price fixed parts. In complaints filed in 2013 in the Northern District of California, several plaintiffs allege that transoceanic vehicle carrier services fixed prices on the vehicles they delivered on their Roll-on Roll-Off ships (also known as Ro Ro vessels).  Google is combining the technology in computers and cars to create the self driving car of the future.  But cars and computers are already alike in that they both have been sold with multiple components that were the subject of illegal price fixing agreements among their manufacturers.


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